Friday, June 30, 2000

Strategy outlined for riverfront development

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Color pictures of the riverfront development proposal called The Banks has Cincinnati buzzing about the possibility of building housing, office and retail space, hotels, restaurants and a park between the two new sports stadiums. Exactly how that development will come together became a little clearer Thursday — not with glossy color photos but with black-and-white words on a page.

The Banks projects
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  Among the proposal's details:
  • Housing will include for-sale and rental properties for people in a wide range of income categories, including some affordable homes for lower-income households.
  • Retail emphasis will be on entrepreneurs and developments with local or regional flavor, including dry cleaners, video rental, convenience stores, bike shops, boutiques and speciality retailers.
  • Restaurants should not focus on national chains. Examples might be a soul food restaurant or a club celebrating the region's Appalachian music tradition.
  • Office space with be boutique-sized targeted largely to independent professionals, particularly those who may live in the development. This will reduce competition with the central business district.
  • Hotels of modest size, probably one or two.
        A draft proposal outlining how developers will be selected to build The Banks was presented to the Riverfront Steering Committee, a group of Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials sorting through riverfront development issues.

        Among other things, the proposal outlines how much it will cost developers for the right to build, how they will be selected and what will be expected of them before, during and after construction.

        It also outlines how much space will be allotted to retail, residential, offices and hotels in each of the blocks.

        The proposal says developers must have a program to guarantee 30 percent of construction, supplies and services are handled by small business es, particularly those owned by minorities or women.

        Developers interested in building on the eight blocks of valuable real estate must ante up $10,000 per block before submitting their proposals. The money will be returned to those who don't get the job.

        From there, another $40,000 will be handed over before the developers break ground. The Port Authority will maintain ownership of The Banks after it is built, charging developers rent of between $40,000 and $600,000 per month, depending on the block.

        “This is a work in progress,” Laura Long, a member of the Riverfront Advisers who drew up The Banks plan, said of the proposal. “We'd like to have it completed in tandem with the creation of the new Port Authority.”

        County and city officials both said they expect to have an agreement on creating a new Port Authority to pick a developer and oversee construction in about two months.

        The Banks is to be built in two phases — the first to be completed in 2003 and the second in 2006.

        Commissioner John Dowlin said he was concerned that the Port Authority may not be established by early August. Ms. Long said if there's a good faith effort being made, it shouldn't matter.


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